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Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology adoption in business environments has seen strong growth in recent years. Adopting an appropriate RFID-based information system has become increasingly important for enterprises making complex and highly customized products. However, most firms still use conventional barcode and run-card systems to manage their manufacturing processes. These systems often require human intervention during the production process. As a result, traditional systems are not able to fulfill the growing demand for managing dynamic process flows and are not able to obtain real-time work-in-process (WIP) views in mass customization manufacturing. This paper proposes an agent-based distributed production control framework with UHF RFID technology to help firms adapt to such a dynamic and agile manufacturing environment. This paper reports the design and development of the framework and the application of UHF RFID technology in manufacturing and logistic control applications. The framework's RFID event processing agent model is implemented in a smart end-point (SEP) device. A SEP can manage RFID readers, wirelessly communicate with shop-floor machines, make local decisions, and coordinate with other SEPs. A case study of a bicycle manufacturing company demonstrates how the proposed framework could improve a firm's mass customization operations. Results of experiments show the decentralized multiagent coordination scheme among SEPs outperformed the current practice of the firm in terms of reducing work-in-process and parts inventory.
Date of Publication: Sept. 2009